M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs are challenging for the top positions at this weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna – Teemu Suninen currently holding second place with Elfyn Evans just behind in fifth.
Both cars showed impressive pace through the opening day of competition, and the Fiestas were first and second after this morning’s opening speed test.
Suninen’s new partnership with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen was working well and the young Finn won two stages to lead the rally after the second pass of Castelsardo (SS3).
A spin on the following stage saw him drop to fifth, but the Flying Finn was straight back on the pace this afternoon – fastest through the first speed test and reducing the gap to the lead to just 0.8 seconds!
Main rival Sordo used his road position to his advantage over the closing stages, but Suninen remains in a strong position – just 10 seconds from the top-step of the podium.
Also never more than a handful of seconds adrift of the lead, Evans was delivering a similarly impressive drive behind the wheel of his Fiesta.
The Welshman reported a strange feeling with the handling over the morning loop, but that didn’t stop him delivering the goods – just 5.9 seconds shy of the top spot going into the afternoon stages.
He and co-driver Scott Martin further reduced that gap over the afternoon, before worn tyres and an overshoot dropped them to fifth. But with the Brits less than 10 seconds shy of the podium, there remains all to play for!
Team Principal, Richard Millener, said:
“It’s been a really good day for us and it’s great to see both cars up there at the sharp end – winning stages, leading the rally and challenging for the top results.
“Teemu and Jarmo are getting on really well. Teemu is a young guy who still wants to learn. He wanted to be the student and you can’t really get a much better teacher than Jarmo! He’s had a really positive effect on him, and it was great to see them winning stages and leading the rally.
“Elfyn and Scott have also had a really strong day. Okay, they’ve had a few little issues here and there which set them back, but the pace was good and it’s still really close.
“We’ve had a great day and I’m confident that both cars can continue challenge for the top results.”
Teemu Suninen (2nd) said:
“I have to say that I’m really happy with our performance today. I think we did a great job with the whole team, and it was just a shame that we did that one mistake in the morning – spinning and losing over 10 seconds.
“Jarmo has been teaching and coaching me all day and I have to say that I really enjoyed being the student again. I am still young and it’s great to be next to a really experienced co-driver like him.
“I think everyone will be really fast tomorrow, and we need to focus on our own performance. I would be happy with a podium, or even a top-four, but let’s try our best and see what happens.”
Elfyn Evans (5th) said:
“When the going was good, the speed was there, but we didn’t have the correct feeling with the car for some stages this morning – and that cost us quite dearly.
“Things were looking up in the afternoon but with the cancellation of the second stage for the guys behind, we used a lot more tyres. I then made a little mistake in the next stage, and there was a massive cleaning effect in the last one.
“We dropped down the order a lot further than we would have liked, but it’s still incredibly close and we’ll fight our way forward tomorrow.”
1. Dani Sordo / Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) 1:36:01.5
2. Teemu Suninen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
3. Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
4. Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +20.2
5. Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
6. Kris Meeke / Sebastian Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
7. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +57.7
8. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferme (Citroen C3 WRC) +1:03.5